I have found something to be true: one must learn to laugh at oneself. This post is published in honor of that truth.
On Wednesday evening I learned that there was a shoe store hoping to raise awareness for the shoeless children in Africa by encouraging Americans to go barefoot on Thursday. I'm all about African children! BUT it was quite cold and rainy yesterday, so I wore flip-flops to make my statement. Off I went to the CU campus in Denver, my toes quite numb by the time I got to my first class. Admittedly I was feeling a little foolish. (I find that any time I do something to raise awareness all I do is spend the day being reminded myself of the cause I'm attempting to raise awareness for.)
The first person to ask me about my footwear choice was an acquaintance I have made in my C++ Programming class who just so happens to have been born and raised in Tanzania. In fact the first words out of his mouth were, "This is not right, Carey!" and I thought he was talking about our program that's due on Tuesday. I was wrong. So I had to explain to him why I was being so very un-wise.
"Carey, let me tell you something," he said. "Growing up I only wore shoes to church. And on Sunday I knew my grandmother would make me wear them and I would go and right after it's over I took them off! I don't like shoes. Now I have lived in America I wear shoes (without socks) but when I go home they laugh at me. I cannot walk barefoot on the ground."
This is where the light bulb came on: here was a man who lived the life of the children I am "supporting" and his reaction: "they don't want shoes!" (He also mentioned that East Africans are much more laid-back than West Africans. Something he felt he had to share when he heard I had been to Nigeria. Apparently I simply must see Tanzania! Something I could do with CU if I were into Paleo-Anthropology, which...I'm not...but I would like to see Tanzania just the same.)
Now I know the reasons we as Americans encourage shoe-wearing in the lives of children around the world, it helps with disease prevention, etc. But I found in my 10 hours of numb-toed living yesterday that the only awareness I rose was my own. I became fully aware (during my humbling chat with this friend, and in the hours that followed it), of how culturally unaware I truly am. It pricks my desire to know more about cultures around the world. How much more good could we do if we took the time to actually understand and appreciate the culture of those we desire to help? I am thankful for the missionaries around the world that do just that and for the people God so graciously puts in my life (in the most unexpected places), to teach me such simple, yet profound, truths.